A state rapidly becoming one of Penn State’s top suppliers of football talent has replaced Ohio as Pennsylvania’s opponent in the Big 33 Classic.
Big 33 officials announced Wednesday that Maryland has agreed to play Pennsylvania from 2013-17. The agreement ends a 20-year relationship with Ohio.
Big 33 Scholarship Foundation executive director David Trimbur said in an interview that multiple states, including Ohio, were interested in signing a five-year deal to play Pennsylvania.
“We felt Maryland was a strong fit,” Trimbur said. “The talent level has risen dramatically in the last 10 years and we paired that up with Maryland’s proximity to Hershey.”
Trimbur said Ohio’s recent success in the series played no part in the switch. Each state won 10 games from 1993-2012, but Ohio won the last four meetings.
Ohio rallied to win this year’s game 24-21 in overtime.
Ohio’s high schools produced 163 Division I recruits in 2012. Pennsylvania and Maryland had 85 and 41 Division I recruits, respectively.
Seventy-six players from Maryland are currently playing Division I football. Maryland has a Big 33 history, facing Pennsylvania every year from 1985-1992.
“We wanted to do something to spice this game up and get it moving again,” Trimbur said.
“We feel Maryland will help us continue to grow on that.”
There has never been a Super Bowl without a Big 33 alumnus. Thirteen current Penn State players participated in the game.
Penn State center Matt Stankiewitch and linebacker Michael Yancich helped Pennsylvania notch its last victory over Ohio, a 31-16 triumph in 2008. Fullback Michael Zordich represented Ohio in 2008.
“I would like for them to keep playing Ohio because I think that’s a very good matchup,” said Stankiewitch, who attended District 11 Blue Mountain High School.
“I know Pennsylvania didn’t win for the last couple of years and my group was the last group to win. We took pride in that, just like this week and the week when we were going to be facing in Ohio in the Big 33 game. We were going into each game to win.”
One Big 33 alum is open to the change.
“I guess it’s not a bad thing,” said Penn State tight end Garry Gilliam, who played in the 2009 game and attended District 3 Milton Hershey.
“I know when Big 33 first started it wasn’t just Ohio. It was different teams. It’s not a bad thing to get other states involved. Maryland is a good state for football. A lot of our players come from Maryland. I think there will still be high competition there, and I think it will be just as prestigious as it was.”
The series begins too late for the Maryland players on Penn State’s roster.
Fifteen Nittany Lions hail from Maryland. The group includes starters Adrian Amos, Donovan Smith, Stephon Morris, Sean Stanley and Malcolm Willis.
Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson is considered an ace recruiter in Maryland.
“The talent level in Maryland is certainly soaring,” Trimbur said.
“I haven’t talked with Coach Johnson, but I know he will be excited about getting Maryland involved.”
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy